The U.S. online piracy bill causing waves across the Internet may either receive a complete rewrite, or be tossed in the trash thanks to a White House response to several petitions over the weekend.
Just last week the legislation, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, saw proposed revisions by Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Lamar Smith that would see the Domain Name System (DNS) blocking provision removed from the impending bill. But now there are talks that the revisions will need to go much deeper than previously realized (aka replacement language) if Congressional staffers don't want to receive a veto by the White House. There's a possibility that they may even need to create an entirely new bill instead.
"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," the Obama Administration said in a public statement.
The White House stated that the proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS). Before the proposed revisions on Friday, there were fears that users would seek out foreign DNS servers to access blacklisted sites -- a splintering of the internet's architecture, so to speak. Even the White House saw a problem, stating that "analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online."
"New legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity," the White House stated. "Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing."
News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch didn't appear happy about the White House response on Monday, saying that "Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery." He also seemingly blames Google for piracy, claiming the search engine giant "streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder [we're] pouring millions into lobbying."
The debate over the proposed bill is expected to intensify over the next few weeks. The White House said the organizer behind the We The People petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss the issue further with Administration officials. After that, the White House will host an online event to get more input and answer questions about the bill.
Saturday's White House response was written by Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff. The full response can be read here.
UPDATE: SOPA has been shelved for now.
UPDATE 2: Ok, maybe not. "House Judiciary CommitteeChairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today said that he expects the Committee to continue its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act in February," reports the House of Representatives.